One hot topic

As the clamour over climate change gathers momentum, there are potentially serious implications for the air cargo industry. Peter Conway examines the issue, where air freight figures in efforts to make supply chains carbon neutral and how the industry might respond.

Though it hasn’t yet resonated as much in Asia as in Europe and the US, there is no doubt that climate change and its implications are moving up the political and business agenda worldwide. Should the air freight industry be worried, and is there anything it can do about the topicanyway?

Certainly TIACA, the international air cargo association, sees the issue as one of the most important ones facing air cargo at the moment, and has promised to devote a chunk of its Annual General Meeting in Copenhagen from 12-14 May to the subject. “It is an issue we take very seriously, because it is starting to build and become political,” says Jack Boisen, vice president cargo for Continental Airlines and the current chairman of TIACA.

The importance of the issue was also recognised at IATA’s AGM in Vancouver in June, where IATA director general, Giovanni Bisignani stated baldly that “a growing carbon footprint is no longer politically acceptable for any industry”. He went on to say that air transport ought to have a target of becoming a carbonneutral industry – one with zero carbon emissions – by 2050.

All of this is a remarkable turnaround for an industry that a year ago didn’t think the climate change issue was even worth debating. But if there is growing agreement that there is an issue to be addressed, is there a viable way forward for air cargo that does not involve simply limiting its future growth?